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Futureproof your business for survival

“We must accept that it could be fatal to wait for this storm to pass, instead we should learn how to adjust our sails. If we navigate these tough times correctly, our defensive actions could represent a defining moment in the history of our businesses,” says Brand Pretorius: one of SA's most admired and successful business leaders, celebrity speaker and renowned author.

I remember attending a talk by Pretorius, then managing director of Toyota SA Marketing. He was talking about “cocooning”, a term coined by Faith Popcorn, trend forecaster and futurist. The term described a tendency to insulate oneself as the outside world becomes more complex and unnavigable, and the effect it would have on doing business. Little could we then imagine what 2020 would look like.

In the rapidly transforming landscape amid a worldwide pandemic, that very future has been thrust upon us and the shift has gone supersonic. Technology has zipped ahead to connect us to new virtual realities and digitised realms, even more so now that we are forced to cocoon. Business Fleet Africa interviewed Pretorius to get his view on the way forward.

“The impact of Covid-19 on the world at large and the business environment has been profound. Things have never changed more unexpectedly and more significantly than what the case is today. Due to an acute shortage of certainty, it has become almost impossible to predict the future,” Pretorius says.

Shelf life of success is collapsing

“What we do know is that the future is not going to be an extension of the past. Previous achievements won’t guarantee tomorrow’s success. In fact, because of never-ending change and continuous disruption, the shelf life of success is falling apart. We need to accept that disruptive technologies, intense competition and ongoing changes in consumer behaviour will necessitate regular reviews of business models. We need to be able to adapt, become more flexible and agile – and all of this with a sense of immediacy. These will be prerequisites for sustainable success in the ‘new normal’,” he says.

Becoming futureproof

In terms of key challenges in moving ahead, he elaborates. “Our key challenge is to futureproof our businesses in an age of exponential turmoil. From a strategic perspective this is not a case of ‘pause’ and then ‘continue,’ it is a case of ‘reset’ and ‘reboot.’ We need to transform our organisations to ensure that they are relevant and competitive in the post-Covid-19 era. Simultaneously, we must perform at world-class levels of efficiency to defend ourselves effectively against the onslaught of new and aggressive competitors. A bias for action is required as the fast tends to eat the slow in the ‘new normal’.”

Is your business still relevant?

Pretorius points out that this is the time to do an objective assessment of business strategies. “A critical question that needs to be answered is whether our products and services will still meet the requirements of our post-Covid-19 customers. Will my offering stand out in terms of features and benefits? Does it offer unbeatable value? Does it have a compelling competitive advantage? In all probability, changes will be necessary in the light of new circumstances, needs and expectations. We must muster the courage to stare the new realities in the face.”

Moving ahead

On how to tackle the immediate future, Pretorius says, “Objective evaluations and quality strategic thinking will be impossible should we be in panic mode. It will be appropriate to calmly zoom out, envision the future and reposition our businesses to ensure relevance, differentiation, and competitiveness. An appropriate and effective strategy can be the catalyst that may propel our businesses to a better future. It might just be the best investment we will ever make.”

First published in Business Fleet Africa: 

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